a lady with some French wine

I picked up the phone, answered as her voice rushed
on like a quicksilver snake.
I couldn’t get most of it, she just kept talking,
on-rushing:   “…and she claims she knows you.   she’s
dying in a hospital and she wants you to come see
her.   she says her name is ———– ————.”

“I’m sorry the lady is sick,” I said, “but I
don’t know her.”

“that’s what I thought.   anyhow…” she con-

the speaker had come by to a place I had lived at
many years ago, had taken some photographs of me
drugged-out, mad, when I had been living with the
they were very good photos but others had taken
some good ones
in those days when I was puking over the lip of
the grave.

she went on
and I just held the phone two feet from my ear
and still heard the intensity of the sound.

I looked at the rug
I looked out the window at the tops of trees
remembering the days when
I had to choose between eating or using the money
for stamps to send the stuff out
and I usually sided with the stamps
and when it came back I was more often than not
known as address unknown.
as as far as the women were concerned I was
the graceless idiot of nowhere.

I placed the phone back to my ear:   “…and I
know that you like German wine but I’ve got a
good case of French wine and
I’d like to come over and have a couple of
bottles with you…”

“I’ve been drinking too much,” I explained,
“too many people want to come by and
drink with me…”

“sure,” she said, “I understand…   you know,
Henry Miller was bothered too, he finally put
a sign on his door, it said…”

“I know about the sign,” I said, “I read about
it somewhere…”

“anyhow,” she went on, “Henry Miller took me to dinner a
couple of times but he knew me, it was different…”

“yes,” I said, “of course.”

“did you get my chapbook of poems?” she asked.


“well, do me this favor…”

“what is it?”

“well, you know, you’ve probably read the poems, so what
I want to ask is, if you like anything about them, about
any of them, please write me and say what you like about
them, o.k?”

“o.k.,” I said.

the conversation was over.   I
hung up.

“who the hell was that?” the woman I live with

“a friend,” I answered.

“a woman?”


“well, it seems to me that when you’re on the phone
that long that
that woman is something else beside a

she was absolutely

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript